Kupchick op-ed / A voice for small business, ending wasteful spending
I first ran for local office because I was tired of local politicians ignoring the concerns of my friends and neighbors. After co-founding a group that successfully worked to have the public's voice included in town decisions on education issues, I started to pay attention to the Connecticut General Assembly. Connecticut has a severely unbalanced legislature that isn't representative of the majority of the residents, who are independent and just want to make a decent living, raise their families and retire in a state that's affordable. People are frustrated with the direction our state has gone; they don't like waste, arrogance or concentrated power in one person or one party. People intuitively like balance.
My husband Peter and I grew up in Fairfield and raised our son here while we built a small heating & cooling business from nothing and grew it into a respected installation company. Though small businesses are the engine of our state's economy, there are very few small-business owners serving in our state legislature, I believe our voice is important in the process. In my first term, I established a Business Advisory Council of 25 small-business owners to identify unfair policies and propose helpful legislative changes.
The last two years presented a unique opportunity for the governor and legislature to restructure the way our state government works. But they simply didn't have the courage to reduce the state's massive debt and change the way government works. Instead, they spent more, taxed more and made our state an even less hospitable place to grow jobs. The majority in the legislature expanded the role of government, put government operating costs and pork projects on the state's credit card and refused to downsize the state workforce through attrition. The state must do what we do every day in our own homes: spend no more than you make and only borrow what you can afford to pay back.
While the chance to fundamentally reform government was squandered, there have been success stories. When legislators work together and listen to their constituents, everyone benefits. I worked with both parties to pass a bipartisan jobs bill that included provisions to empower small business growth; provided a three-year moratorium on toxic waste; preserved Fairfield's landscape by increasing the public's voice when trees are trimmed under the utility tree-trimming program; and increased accountability from the pet industry through new regulations and fines for sourcing puppies and kittens from inhumane animal mills.
The legislature's majority raided the Special Transportation Fund of nearly $300 million over the last four years. This fund is set aside for transportation projects to maintain our rail system and repair bridges and roads. I supported legislation that would amend the state constitution to protect the fund and to designate rail-fare increases specifically for rail improvements.
The next governor must work with the legislature to create a long-term plan to implement congestion strategies for I-95 and create a real plan to invest in Metro-North.
I supported "live here, work here" legislation which allows Connecticut college graduates to put a portion of their taxes toward a down payment on their first home. I will continue to fight against the oppressive tax and regulatory environment so businesses will look to relocate or start up and create jobs for young people to stay in Connecticut.
I've made it my top priority to listen and learn from my constituents. I strive to be accessible through town hall and legislator-on-your-corner meetings, newsletters, email and telephone communication. You have said loud and clear that you want your representatives to decrease spending, fight high taxes, reform our schools, improve mass transit and create the conditions for job growth.
You have told me clearly that you want an honest and transparent government.
I've advocated for and offered proposals to get our state back on track and reduce wasteful spending, including straightening out the state's unemployment compensation fund, privatizing some state services and offering proposals that give small business owners a break. Fairfield residents are desperate for a break from the crushing tax burden and red tape that has created ever-higher barriers to entrepreneurship, job growth and the ability to retire in Connecticut.
I have a reputation for straight talk, identifying problems, discussing solutions with all stakeholders, developing practical plans and creating coalitions to implement plans for change. It's a tremendous honor to represent the people of Fairfield and Southport and hope I've earned your trust for another term.
Brenda Kupchick is a Republican and the incumbent state representative for the 132nd District.